Tenant 'Blacklists' Make It Difficult to Rent

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


New Yorkers who end up in Housing Court can end up on a so-called tenant "blacklist” that can make it harder to find a new place to live.

The lists are kept by tenant screening companies with support from the court system itself — which sells the data to the companies. Landlords and management companies review those lists and often reject applicants who’ve been sued in housing court, even if they have a good credit score and meet income requirements.

That leaves some tenants who haven’t done anything wrong unable to find a place to live, according to James Fishman, a tenant lawyer who has filed class-action lawsuits against tenant screening companies.

“There are many reasons that tenants get sued in New York that have nothing to do with whether they are good tenants or not,” Fishman said. “In fact, a lot of the reasons have to do with whether they have a bad landlord or not.”

Landlords and brokers say the screening reports help them weed out deadbeat renters.

“There are professional tenants out there who over the years go from building to building, apartment to apartment, and skip out on the rent,” said Frank Ricci, director of government affairs at the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords.

Until 2012, the courts used to sell the names of tenants sued in housing court. After pressure from legislators, they changed their practice and now only sell index numbers for court cases. Tenant screening companies have adapted to the new rules by having contractors sit in the clerk’s office to match index numbers to the tenants’ names.

The two companies that currently buy index numbers are CoreLogic SafeRent and TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions — both national companies. They declined requests for interviews.

They pay the courts a $20,000 fee and $350 weekly to get daily updates. David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state courts, says the courts are simply selling public information to generate a small revenue stream.


David L. Lewis


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Comments [6]

JPD from New York City

Great justification for wrecking people's lives: a "small revenue stream".

Oct. 30 2014 05:29 PM
Peter Anderson

The fact that there is a tenant blacklist and not a landlord blacklist says a lot about power and inequality in our society.

May. 09 2014 01:34 PM
Bernie from Bronx

I used to do tenant screening and made use of this so-called "black list." If a tenant's name appeared, I would ask the circumstances, and if he or she had taken a bad landlord to court or had a temporary financial problem, I would not hold that against them. But some people just don't pay rent once they've moved in, and it can take up to a year of foregone rent and legal fees to evict them. In the meantime, the owner still has to pay the bills.

May. 09 2014 01:18 PM
James Fishman from NYC

There's a lot of info on the internet about bad landlords. For years the Village Voice had a 10 Worst Landlords list. More recently then Public advocate DiBlasio published it. You can also use the housing courthouse computer to see how many eviction cases the landlord brings as well as how many HP actions for repairs are brought against the LL

May. 07 2014 08:31 PM
British X from new york

Mark is this what your looking for?

May. 07 2014 05:20 PM
Mark Schuyler from Brooklyn, New York

I guess I am being too logical, or perhaps extremely naive, or perhaps observing something so bizarre about this story.

If there is a blacklist for tenants, merely because they exercised their rights, or the landlord was at fault, or some agency was not up to speed...or the tenant has a poor record of payment, for whatever reason...

Where is the corresponding list of slumlords, greedy property owners, landlords down on their luck, or landlords simply unwilling or unable to provide a safe and legal home for a tenant?

What is the city doing to prevent or punish landlords from not bringing their property into compliance with code, law and regulations. Where is the list of predatory property owners.

How can a prospective tenant know how to avoid a "troubled building?"

Balance, please, on this story.

May. 07 2014 09:44 AM

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